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Former garment workers union disaffiliates and joins SEIU


May 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Former garment workers union disaffiliates and joins SEIU


LEHIGH VALLEY, April 5th- On March 20th former UNITEHERE members gathered in Philadelphia for their first meeting since disaffiliating from the international union several weeks before and joining the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

UNITEHERE was formed in 2004 when the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) merged with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE).

UNITE was formed in 1995 when the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) merged. The two unions mostly represented workers employed within the garment industry including throughout Pennsylvania.

HERE represented workers employed at casinos and hospitality services including hotels and restraurants.

According to the United States Department of Labor (DOL), UNITEHERE had approximately 450,000 active members before UNITE disaffiliated from the international union.

According to UNITE, in early March rank and file leaders of UNITEHERE Joint Board voted overwhelmingly to disaffiliate from the union. Since then, more than 75,000 workers have signed petitions voicing support for the disaffiliation.

Approximately 375 delegates were invited from every part of the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada to participate in the meeting in Philadelphia. The meeting was the first founding convention for the new union and was attended by union representatives from the Pennsylvania Joint Board, which represents UNITE members in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania including workers at Tama Manufacturing.

The union has an office at 1017 Hamilton Street in Allentown.

UNITE stated for many reasons the merger did not work. Spending went up, while membership went down. The union claims UNITEHERE lacked agreement on priorities, strategies to win for members, and a shared vision of the future.

“Eventually, these leaders and members realized the only way to rise up was to get out of UNITEHERE,” stated UNITE.

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